Confetti popping invitations, VR Fruit Ninja, champagne bars, spinning wheel cocktails, and socially conscious gifting to the American Cancer Society! This is what 30 looks like to us.
Birthdays are kind of a big deal. Beyond the candles, cake, guests, and champagne toasts, there is the feeling of gratitude to all those that have helped you in the past year, who have been there by your side, and whom you can welcome with open arms at an annual celebratory fete. Filled with smiles and joyful celebration, the team at CSI DMC recently found themselves in the wonderful position of planning a celebration for not just any individual, but for our entire company!
From those very first days on Capitol Hill, CSI DMC has been lauded for creating exceptional and inspired events, and has been fortunate as a company to expand well beyond those earlier environs to our current nationwide presence in Florida, Texas, Baltimore, the US Virgin Islands, Nashville, the Bahamas, Chicago, and our expanded international footprint thanks to our partnership with Exclusive Destinations. Coming together as a company to celebrate a multitude of milestones, chief among them our thirty years in business, it took a team of creative individuals, and a bevy of inspired feats, to bring together an event respective of our company’s culture.
STLYE MEETS SOPHISTICATION
Turning thirty as a company has given us time to define what we stand for; we are passionate about craftsmanship, the attendee experience, and no matter what, leaving guests with a moment of “WOW!” when they attend our functions. With all these values in mind, we elected to design a birthday celebration that blended the best of our founding city’s history with contemporary flare. After a variety of site visits touring everything from raw spaces to sleek new venues, the central location and classic DC brownstone architecture of the National Union Building in Penn Quarter became the cornerstone of our event concept. The structure itself has weathered the test of time in the district, housing a whole host of industries: first as a historic fire insurance headquarters, then a gambling den, and then a local startup business headquarters. The Nation Union’s most recent iteration however, made it an ideal fit: a multi-tiered event space that payed homage to the venue’s past lives. Perfect! The historic architectural details, and layers of history in the space, combined with cutting edge technology and different ambiances throughout the floors, offered a mix of culinary and entertainment offerings that we felt emulated our company’s brand beautifully.
For our thirtieth celebration, each floor of the venue was designed with inspiration from the building’s vibrant history, with a healthy dose of creativity, entertainment and culinary expertise from our wonderful vendor partners.
Guests arriving at the venue were met by a brightly lit façade and the glow from the multiple floors within, spilling out on to the nighttime street. Period dressed greeters flanked the entry, a nod to the building’s 1930s gambling den history, and ushering attendees into our bubbly and pearlescent registration. Floors, ceilings, and walls were coated in celebratory effervescence, and guests were asked to pose for photos (later transformed into edible selfie cookie giveaway gifts) before heading upstairs. The party atmosphere kept the airy theme going on the second tier of the venue, with immense champagne bars, burrata bites, and engaging entertainment. With lively acoustic guitar setting the tone, guests were invited to leave words of wisdom for our birthday on early 20th century phones, re-purposed as tech-savvy guest books. And, what is a birthday without cards and gifts!? A six-foot-tall card accumulated handwritten notes from well-wishers over the course of the evening, while thank you gifts for our guests were setup in the next room…
As Jill McGregor Hainline, our founder and inspiring force, is no longer with us, a gifting display honoring her spirit and the joys of hosting engaging events was crafted as part of the second floor experience. Each gift was selected by the team at CSI represent an aspect of our services, and attendees were asked to select an item at random from a bevy of identical looking packages. In memory of Jill, the value of each mystery gift was matched by CSI with a donation to the American Cancer Society. Bright and smiling faces surrounded the table, eager to connect and gift back to our local ACS chapter.
Here at CSI, we draw inspiration from the world around us, ever forward thinking of creative designs. This was certainly the case on the third floor of the National Union Building! Gifts in hand, guests were encouraged to journey upstairs, and enter a brightly lit culinary kitchen takeover. Chefs prepared a la minute ancient grains and savory faro-risotto dishes, and sweet-toothed guests were invigorated with sugary Hong Kong-Style bubble waffle cones. Those that were feeling a little competitive could battle out their virtual reality skills at dueling Fruit Ninja gaming stations, all sword swinging kept in sync to the pop-inspired electric violinist just a short distance away.
As the night’s festivities continued, and expanded throughout the building, guests who had been greeted by the 1930s gentlemen upon arrival had a pleasant surprise to top off their evening- hidden in the basement level of National Union, beyond a hidden stairwell and doorway, a recreated gambling den paid homage to the venue’s secretive past. Taking their chance at the cocktail roulette wheels, guests could gamble their chances with a menu whose rotations left their order in the hands of the bartending “dealer.” This edgy space was hidden from view by roughly fashioned beams and cloth, but was quick to become one of the most popular stops on our guests’ exploration of the party! Around every corner, there was something to tantalize the eye and the palette.
Set across four floors of event space, with a single load-in point and central elevator, the execution, setup and design within the event space was a test of our wonderful vendor partners’ expertise. Multiple pre-planning meetings to discuss load-in schedules, how to best interweave deigns, and crafting experiential elements laid the bones for the elaborate system of carpenters, catering and lighting craftsman that descended onto the National Union Building the day of our celebration. Various teams of vendors arrived in waves, staggering the load-in of our event concepts. Each team worked in concert with the city officials (this is DC after all, with multiple enforcement officers), to ensure that parked vehicles on a busy downtown street did not impede traffic. The valet curbside reservation set aside full swaths of city parking for vehicle movement, and any staged materials on sidewalks left the way clear for ADA requirements.
As the National Union Building had only been open for a short time prior to our event, this was one of the largest load-ins for any program the venue had ever booked, and both their and our teams worked hand in hand to ensure clear lines of communication. The architecture of the building necessitated protective covering on marble structures, antique lighting fixtures and furnishings, and any handling or movement of the on-site decor was attended to with care and consideration. Piece by piece, the event spaces were transformed into an exploration of eras, styles, and the richness of experiences and event designs that we pride ourselves on as a company.
ONWARDS & UPWARDS
As the fading light of the sunset painted the city gold, guests who arrived to a brilliantly lit celebration enjoyed a venue that was theirs to explore over the course of the evening. Welcoming local attendees, and partners from the greater metropolitan DC area, as well as clients and partners from our destinations, the chiming of glassware and exclamations of excitement were the true indicators of the event’s success. As a company that prides itself on exceptional experiences, our guests’ enthusiasm for all elements of the evening was humbling and inspiring. 2017 brought CSI a lot of growth, success, and exciting ventures, and we could not have done it all without our amazing clients, vendors and partners. Thank you! We cannot wait to see what the next thirty years have to offer, and look forward to celebrating with everyone again soon!
Immense thanks to each of the vendor partners who contributed overwhelmingly to our 30th Celebration: